Industry leaders have questioned research that suggests small multiples are better at delivering the new medicine service (NMS) than independent pharmacies.
Independent contractors had delivered the service "exceptionally well", pharmacy leaders said in response to last week's evaluation by Nottingham University, which found that NMS patients were almost twice as likely to be more adherent to their medicines if the service was provided by a small multiple rather than an independent.
The evaluation - which looked at 12 independent pharmacies, 14 small multiples, 19 large multiples and one supermarket – found that pharmacy chains were "more capable of rolling out the NMS" while independents did "not necessarily see an alignment" between the service and their approach to community pharmacy.
The research produced "inconclusive" data on the adherence rates of patients at larger multiples or supermarkets, the researchers added.
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott told C+D that "too much" was being made of the evaluation's reference to the success of small multiples, as the limited number of pharmacies analysed made it hard to reach specific conclusions.
"Nearly half the patients came to small multiples [and] the numbers are quite small," he said.
Numark director of pharmacy services Mimi Lau said it was "not the case" that small chains were better than independent pharmacies at engaging with the NMS.
"Independents can react quickly and they've got the attitude and the team behind them. It was a generalised evaluation [and] in reality you've got multiples that are not doing so well," Ms Lau told C+D.
Nick Hunter, secretary of Doncaster, Rotherham and Nottinghamshire LPCs, agreed that some independent pharmacies had "really got behind" the NMS and were able to rapidly respond to changing priorities.
Mr Hunter suggested the evidence from the evaluation that some independents may have struggled to deliver the service could be the result of a tough economic climate and said it would be "interesting" to investigate this issue further.
Independent Pharmacy Federation chief executive Claire Ward told C+D that independents had a good relationship with their patients and would find it easier to deliver the NMS if it was commissioned permanently as a "core NHS service".
But Amanda Smith, manager of Heath Pharmacy in Halifax, said it was a "fair point" that multiples were doing a better job at delivering the service then independent pharmacies such as her own.
"We did start off enthusiastically but because you have to meet certain targets to get paid, we went off it. We're just a single shop and have found it difficult," Ms Smith told C+D.
The evaluation showed that the NMS "significantly" improved medicines adherence and saved the NHS money, the researchers from Nottingham University said. The most successful pharmacies at recruiting patients for the service had a cohesive team and a "clear can-do attitude", they said.